Rob Oakeshott yet to commit to contesting Cowper in federal election

Contemplating: Rob Oakeshott says the retirement of Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker is an opportunity for the electorate.
Contemplating: Rob Oakeshott says the retirement of Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker is an opportunity for the electorate.

Rob Oakeshott says the retirement of federal MP Luke Hartsuyker provides the electorate with an opportunity.

The sitting member for Cowper announced the end of his 17-year career on Wednesday, August 8.

Mr Hartsuyker's announcement follows some intense media speculation surrounding his future, and follows disastrous results for the Coalition government in the July 28 Super Saturday by-elections.

Mr Oakeshott served as the federal member for Lyne for five years before his own retirement in 2013.

"From a personal point of view, I wish Luke and his family well in retirement," Mr Oakeshott said.

"But I also hope the attention of the electorate quickly moves to the opportunity that this (retirement) presents.

"My feedback is that we are drifting on strategies for our university, health and education.

"There is not a lot of united community engagement in projects to help grow our area at the moment.

"We need the full benefit of the current growth in education and health. From that we can grow a broader strategy and get back on track.

"That is the opportunity that this (Mr Hartsuyker's retirement) presents. And hopefully we can get that sense of unity and purpose for progress again.

"The frustration in our area is that while we are growing and ticking along, we could be doing so much better," he said.

But Mr Oakeshott fell short of declaring if he would contest the election for Cowper, which is likely to be held in May 2019.

"I haven't made any announcement at this stage," he said. "But I wouldn't do a three-week campaign again. It was unfair on volunteers and unfair on my supporters in the lead-up to the 2016 election.

"If I was to run again, it would be a much longer campaign. That would be to really galvanise a much more united approach, regardless of political background.

The frustration in our area is that while we are growing and ticking along, we could be doing so much better.

Rob Oakeshott

He described the electorate as problematic with Mr Hartsuyker 'basically winding back the Port Macquarie presence with a smaller office space'.

"In his defence, that reflects two very different communities of interest between the greater Port Macquarie area and the Coffs Harbour area," he added.

Mr Oakeshott said big ticket items, like education, were 'drifting along'.

"Personally I have been disappointed that local state and federal politicians haven't really grabbed these opportunities and made them even bigger.

"It seems that projects have been down-scaled and funding pulled back.

"The combination of health and education arms is really where the jobs, growth and progress for Port Macquarie is in many ways," he said.

Mr Oakeshott also noted recent reviews and investigations surrounding the Port Macquarie Base Hospital. "It (the hospital) is not a harmonious ship at the moment," he added.

On the employment front, Mr Oakeshott said the electorate had fallen back into the same trend as the national level but ‘just add a few extra points’.

"We are back into those old habits of politics not doing anything," he said. "I think we can use politics to drive progress and growth in our area.

"But we need a local strategy, some investment and a bit of buy-in from state and federal governments.

"We can do better as a region. With a bit of elbow grease from all organisations, and pitching good ideas to government, we can beat the national employment figures across the board but specifically in youth and Indigenous employment."

We can do better as a region: Rob Oakeshott.

We can do better as a region: Rob Oakeshott.

He said it was frustrating for many people that leadership at the national level was also 'drifting'.

There are some huge opportunities and underlying goodwill in most people to have Australian politics work," he said.

"But most people are cold and frustrated and disappointed by the politics of the moment, and they continue to look for more (direction and leadership).

"Personally, as a voter, that is my sentiment.

"There are not many cheerleaders left for the current government and they are the last of the true believers."

Mr Oakeshott called on both major governments to lock in funding to complete the Coffs Harbour bypass.

He said it "really stands out now as the missing link".

"We need a commitment to funding and that needs to be quicker than The Nationals has at the moment," he said.

"That is the force an election can bring."

Mr Oakeshott is continuing with his medical studies at the NSW University and raising his four children.

While he is yet to commit to declaring if he will contest Cowper at the next federal election, the Labor Party has endorsed Andrew Woodward while the Greens have announced Dr Sally Townley as its candidate.